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svgadminsvgNovember 2, 2011svgNews

Firebombs Destroy Offices of French Satirical Publication

The French political class was united as one in condemning the arson committed against the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

The weekly had decided to comment on the victory by the Islamic party in Tunisia and the announcement by the Libyan transitional Council that Libyan law would be based on the Muslim Sharia.

It therefore changed the masthead of the weekly from Charlie Hebdo to Sharia Hebdo and installed the prophet Mohammed as “editor”. The front page featured a turbaned cleric threatening the reader with 100 lashes if he did not die laughing.

It is worth pointing out that the weekly is associated with the French left and it has frequently attacked Roman Catholicism with far cruder satire.

However, elements in the Muslim community were not amused and they firebombed the offices of the journal reducing it and the equipment literally to cinders.

Charlie Hebdo had previously aroused the ire of Muslims by reprinting the Mohammed cartoons from the Danish paper Jyllens Posten in 2006 –an act was that was condemned by then French president Jacques Chirac. Muslim organizations sued the paper in court for defaming Islam but were defeated. In addition to the arson the website was hacked and surfers received verses from the Koran and a picture of Mecca.

Condemnation was unanimous and even Muslim organizations joined in.

On the left the ecologists announced their solidarity with the paper and its team and condemned the criminal actions that tried to strangle free expression. Socialist party presidential candidates Francois Hollande told Le Monde “these acts demonstrate that the fight for the freedom of the press and respect for opinions remains permanent and that fundamentalism should be eradicated in all its forms.”

The far left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon declared his solidarity with the paper and hoped that it would be able to rebound from the attack. However, representing a party that hopes to attract the Moslem vote, Melenchon warned against confusing the act of “imbeciles” who deserved to be strongly punished “with the mass of our Muslim compatriots who practice their faith and complete tranquility”

For the government, the Interior Minister (who is responsible for the police) Claude Gueant called freedom of the press a sacred liberty “all Frenchmen should feel this morning solidarity with the paper that by its existence and by its way of operating expresses the freedom of the press.”

The National Front, trying to tap into the uneasiness about the growth of France’s Muslim population, of course condemned the attack but as opposed to the left that sought to differentiate the attackers from mainstream Islam, the Front attacked its political opponents. It denounced those who on the pretext of the denouncing Islamophobia “sought to prevent any democratic and laic debate” which making Sharia an untouchable subject.

It also called for “reestablishing Republican order in those neighborhoods where the Islamists seek to assure their control.” This was a dig at the government on the law and order issue.

The Front also believed that Charlie Hebdo tackled a real problem represented by recent events in Libya and Tunisia as well as the violence in Egypt against the Copts. Taken together  it said, they constituted was a cause for “legitimate concern”. 

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